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The Suns are making good progress on renovations at Talking Stick Resort Arena

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GM James Jones and President/CEO Jason Rowley led a tour of what used to be entry pavilion, which is now decimated as the Suns rebuild their arena.

Talking Stick Resort Arena houses the Phoenix Suns Brendon Kleen

The old Talking Stick Resort Arena is no more. Long live. A much more modern building is going up inside the same walls, the product of extensive renovations that may as well be called reconstruction, if not for the fact that the real estate in the heart of downtown Phoenix is too good to move off of. The Suns’ home is going to look mighty nice starting next season.

In a tour for local media this week, Suns general manager James Jones and President/CEO Jason Rowley walked us through the progress being made. The construction crew, Okland, is on schedule to be finished with the initial portion of the project by the scheduled start date for the 2020-21 season, though that is obviously up in the air now. Because Arizona deemed construction an essential business during Gov. Doug Ducey’s stay-at-home order, the Suns did not have to pause the build.

The new arena trades stuffiness for open-air experiences, starting with the bar that will greet fans upon entry and guide them into the lower bowl of the arena, at a standing-room outlook near the visitors’ bench.

Phoenix Suns general manager James Jones at Talking Stick Resort Arena Brendon Kleen

This week, the team removed the final seat in the building, and is slowly replacing them with cushioned seats not unlike those that were already in the lower-level, center-court area.

Rowley is hopeful the team can host fans in the fall, but if the season is pushed back and cannot immediately welcome fans for the 2020-21 NBA season, that could allow the team to get closer to the finish line this year. Originally, the plan was to finish 60 percent of the work this summer, then complete the project in the summer of 2021. They could have the chance to finish it out sooner if things break that way.

The organization is also optimistic about the on-schedule completion of its new practice facility on 44th street and Camelback in Phoenix, which should open by late July. Jones said that will give his players an experience that is “unrivaled” in the league.

It was a bit of a surreal scene, not only to be back at the arena after these months, but to see it torn to shreds. The Suns are optimistic, though, and seemed to be genuinely excited about seeing their plans come to fruition.

Look at the smiles! (in what used to be the entryway to the Casino Arizona pavilion)

Phoenix Suns executives James Jones and Jason Rowley at Talking Stick Resort Arena Brendon Kleen

It’s hard to say when anyone outside the players and team staff might get to enjoy the arena again, but this is the kind of project you pull off for the future, not the immediate present. Whenever we’re welcomed back to a Suns home game, it’s going to be a lot more comfortable, modern, and sleek.